The Warm-Up: World Cup clock-watching, Lucas Torreira, Thomas Lemar, Julen Lopetegui
Plus: VAR is going to be a catastrophe, and Big Sam is jealous and doesn’t care who knows it.
WEDNESDAY'S BIG STORIES
The World Cup is coming! S...L...O...W...L...Y
In childhood, the longest days of the year come in December, between school breaking up and Christmas.
You’re wildly excited, but also bored. And above all, just willing the clock to tick around to the big day.
When you’re eight years old, December 23rd lasts about a month.
That’s where we are with the World Cup right now. Nothing is happening. There are no friendlies, no squad culls, no nothing – other than breaking news alerts for aircraft touching down.
So let us all stare at this countdown clock and say nothing until 4pm tomorrow. And no publicly wondering why we were all so desperate for Russia v Saudi Arabia until at least quarter past.
Next year's Champions League-winning manager is...
Over in the Spain camp, they’ve been whiling away the hours by smoking out coach Julen Lopetegui over his new job as Real Madrid boss.
Lopetegui’s appointment was meant to be a secret, although the six Real Madrid players in the squad apparently knew.
When one outsider found out, Lopetegui decided to come clean.
Twitter took mere nanoseconds to decide who the potential whistleblower was…
When two tribes go to war... co-hosting a World Cup gets tricky
It’s not far off eight years since a World Cup host was last named – 2nd December 2010 to be precise.
That was the glorious day in football history when the 2018 and 2022 tournaments were awarded to Russia and Qatar.
A decision that seemed pretty weird at the time has not aged well, although the Warm-Up has heard Richard Keys thinks 2022 will be great.
This morning we find out who will host the 2026 tournament.
Will it be Morocco? Or will it be the joint North American bid from Canada, Mexico and the USA?
The Warm-Up has no pony in this race, though it would be interested to see how the North American tournament preparations are affected when Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un reduce Montreal to a pile of smouldering rubble.
IN OTHER NEWS
Arsenal pay over the odds for Torreira
Arsenal are making moves in the transfer market with a €30m deal for Sampdoria’s Lucas Torreira.
Which is all fine and dandy until you find out that’s €5m more than his release clause ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Lemar Atletico move - better than 50:50
Wednesday: After persistent links with top Premier League clubs, Thomas Lemar signs for Atletico Madrid.
But please, everyone, don’t feel like you’ve been played.
HEROES AND ZEROES
Hero: Sam Allardyce
There can’t be too many England fans who regret the ‘pint of wine’ incident. Would you rather see Gareth Southgate’s exciting, positive young breed, or a Big Sam-orchestrated spectacle of Michail Antonio knocking diagonal long balls to Andy Carroll?
"Jealous is what I feel. Massively disappointed. That should be me there. "
There’s more to come in a BBC documentary Managing England: The Impossible Job on Sunday.
Zero: Pierluigi Collina
Sacrilege to criticise the one ref everyone likes, we know, but as (Googles) FIFA referees committee chairman Collina will preside over the inevitable farce of VAR this tournament.
Yesterday’s announcement: linesmen aren’t going to bother flagging for close offside decisions because they want to leave it to VAR.
"If you see some assistant referee not raising the flag, it's not because he's making mistakes. It's because he's respected the instruction to keep the flag down. They were told to keep the flag down when there is a tight offside incident and there could be a very promising attack or a goal-scoring opportunity because, if the assistant referee raises the flag, then everything is finished."
How exactly a load of goals being retrospectively chalked off is preferable to the occasional duff offside decision, we can only guess. But this is going to be a shambles.
More excitingly, Collina confirmed that the video assistant referees will be staring into their monitors wearing full kit.
It’s fairly well-trodden stuff, but still extremely amusing.
This is a lovely, lovely thread of excellent World Cup goals.